Five tips to help engineers communicate with the public


While on our rounds Transport Network is often in contact with local engineers who bemoan the trouble they have competing for funds and attention with other, more emotive, services.

Meanwhile those looking from outside the sector can sometimes be frustrated and bemused by planning and transport decisions they feel they were not properly involved in, as the recent powerful film Sea of Change demonstrates on the issue of shared space.

While we can't change the nature of society, we do try and help. So here are 5 tips from former engineer turned communications and career coach, Mark Bisson.

  • 5 steps to communicating more effectively

1. Building rapport and trust is key for all relationships

2. Listen actively and authentically to others views

3. Work at understanding what it is really like to be in the other person’s shoes

4. See everyone as resourceful with the ability to identify their own solutions

5. Focus on the creation of a mutual sense of empowerment

The civil engineering profession works in an increasingly regulated environment. This can lead to a command and control culture where task delivery, compliance and project completion take precedence over engagement and communication.

The result can be tension and conflict with work colleagues and those in society who engineers are actually trying to help through maintaining and improving the built environment.

This is where both individual and team coaching can make a positive difference. I made the transition from civil engineer to executive leadership and business coach 15 years ago and since then have coached engineers in public and private sector organisations. I have supported engineers on a range of issues including improving their relationships with peers and those in wider society with a resultant improvement in job satisfaction and a reduction in conflict.

One example was a civil engineer who was a recognised specialist in his field with excellent technical expertise. However he struggled with engaging stakeholders which resulted in tense discussions at public exhibitions and consultation forums. He had a lack of awareness of other perspectives as he was stuck in his own professional “map of the world”.

I supported him in finding his own solution to his dilemma by using questions to raise his awareness. He genuinely had no idea that his behaviours were the cause of the tensions when, in his words, he was “dealing with the public”.

Through coaching he acquired an intrinsic motivation to change as he could see the benefits to him and to others he worked with. The changes he wanted to make took time as he was altering behaviours created over many years. However his transformation was significant, he moved to a place of authentically wanting to understand other people’s perspectives and being motivated to be more flexible regarding the technical engineering solution.

He said: 'Coaching has opened my eyes to the negative impact my approach was having and has resulted in me enjoying my job more. It has also helped me improve my relationships with my colleagues.'

My role as coach is to support and challenge the clients I work with to find their own solutions. Coaching provides a safe environment to work through issues. It is important to acknowledge that the creation of more effective working behaviours takes time and encouragement however the impact can be transformational.

To find out more contact Mark at his website or email

Mark Bisson is director of Rise Organisational Development Consultancy

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